Breaking. Soaring. Becoming.
Unpacking this year has been overwhelming and emotional. It’s been the lengthiest and toughest year yet, but still, the most deserving of documentation.
So, I attempted to summarise. Settle in.
“…. We plan and Allah plans. And Allah is the Best of Planners”
At the end of 2016, I had a pretty clear picture of how the year would go. In my mind, I had all the pieces of the puzzle and I only had to piece them together in the new year. 2017 unfolded a different portrait of my life. The picture was only an illusion and so all the puzzle pieces were at best, clutter. It took a couple of months to see the new picture but it was clear the background was wrong and the pieces did not fit and so everything had to go.
The ripping tore everything at my core apart. Then, stitched it back together anew.
2017 was the year God scattered everything just so He could rearrange it in the most beautiful way.
“….Verily with difficulty, there is ease”
The first quarter was punctuated with pain.
On January 1st, I got a new job. A doctor job. A while-away-timer, with light shifts and enough time to study for professional exams, ace them and begin my residency program as a Pediatrician. Enough time to prowl the inter webs for wedding ideas, create the prettiest planning excel sheets, contact the best vendors, begin to load my September wedding body….
And then on January 29th, I lost the job and everything shook. My core, my heart, the foundations of everything. This singular event was a nudge towards awakening. All the questions of 2016 returned, all the worrying, the breaking, the waiting.
January was for thinking the hard thoughts.
In February, the answers started to come. I was broke, broken and ill.
I was job hunting during the day and having solo crying ceremonies at night. My bank account was laughing at me while I laughed the days away pretending I was alright. My body kept fighting different things: the worst flu, inexplicable aches, malaria, anxiety, desperation, migraines with a vengeance, loneliness, nightmares…
Days of poring over texts in a book without studying. Worrying about failing (again), frustrated with adult learning. A new job, I found solely by chance and through a friend who extended a hand. Life in the City again. Silence from the person I was moving everything for. An endless flow of words from voices that soothed. Confusion and Denial, Pain and Betrayal.
Somehow, My Lord found a way to shine His Noor on me.
On silent nights when the neighbor’s dogs chose sleep over howling, I repeated between teary sighs: “If it is mine, Please fix it and make it beautiful. If it isn’t, please take it away and make it easy.”
February was for surrender.
In March, I uprooted the tree I had watered for four years, tending tirelessly, tending alone for months. The plant that had stopped bearing fruit, nor providing shade. The one I could no longer climb. The one whose roots had started to starve my soul, whose leaves had begun to litter my mental space. Yanking the roots of that tree was like plucking out my own roots, because sometime in the course of gardening, I had planted myself, my joy, a good part of my life in the same place. I burnt some of myself in the fire I made from the wood, and it seared everything.
Somehow, the words I chanted in February became my reality, because the flames warmed me instead and I had a carnival dancing around them.
March was the celebration of loss.
Losing is finding.
It struck me as a sign that the most prominent emotion I experienced in this time was relief. There were others: fear, pain, betrayal, hurt, loss, abandonment, loneliness, pity, sadness. The tears came too, and took the pain away and unclogged all of the heaviness in my chest, freeing tears that leaked out of my eyes in a tub full of love and foam.
Lightness came in a thousand sighs that day and everyday after.
Eventually, at a time I least expected, aptly a full moon night, the laughter bubbled out too.
And finally, I felt like I could soar.
After March, I was ready.
There’s an analogy somewhere about being forged in the fire, the burn of the flame, the pain from the hammer, beating the metal to its core.
All of it for the final form of being Gold. This is how I think of myself.
Most people still do not believe how I say that I didn’t wallow in it and think that I am mad for not being angry, for not being depressed…for even laughing about it each time a vendor sends me a reminder mail or the wedding is referred to.
I always make reference to two things: answered prayers and a support system that is to die for.
My parents for not letting disappointment cloud their judgement after reading my lengthy announcement email. For their efforts, their love and above all for telling me my thoughts were valid and reminding me that love did not hold one to ransom and that sadness was not a thing I needed to hold on to.
“You deserve a person who treats you like you’re his world”
“How did you bear all this hurt for so long”
“All that matters is that you’re fine”
My brothers who got it and made it even easier to let me live, for their prayers.
Even my extended family members for being my best voltrons, all of whom I thought would throw tantrums for having put them through the stress of an introduction ceremony. A family that sticks.
..And my friends…
Neemah, for sending me ice-cream cake from miles away and letting me stuff my face happily in sugar, for the poetry that came with it and the laughter for when I needed to vent.
Mudrah, for reminding me of my Premium Sauce status on days I seemed to be forgetting, for reiterating that there was no room for palapala behaviour.
My SisterBaes for the laughter and the affirmative words. Ademisola, Ireoluwakiitan, you women are golden.
Yeninse, for sending all the love from miles away.
Waha and Seyil, for the quiet understanding.
I like to think that God carefully selected the best women to be my sisters because he knew I didn’t have any from my mother….and then added a ribbon on top and made them fierce, beautiful and so so smart.
I love you all and even if I said No, I appreciate you guys for volunteering to fight and drag anybody for me.
The story will not be complete without mentioning the people who were silent. The ones who did not show up. The ones who speculated and whispered. The ones who pretended to care but only needed to soothe their god-complex. The one who came to me as a “brother in the spirit”, your ass really tried to come for me.
I am thankful to God for you too, for a discerning spirit and for giving me a good laugh through your actions and inactions.
“I am flawed if I am not free”
Amidst all of the chaos and the breaking, I found a love that didn’t require falling or truncating…
A ‘come, sit here and rest your head’ kind, a warm place where I could break, a love that magnifies, feeds you kindness, heals with words. A love that wakes you up to smiles. A love that lets you be you, lets you fly, adds winds to your wings. I found a love that is open and wanting, a love that is patient with no restraints. Most importantly, a love that matches efforts.
It is amazing how it eventually came to be him, after all these years, all the words, all the different events. I think it was always supposed to be this way, and at this time. All of it for this. In translation, it means we can only get better.
“..and which of your Lord’s favors can you deny?”
I found that a lot of energy is expended in emotional labor.
Being around people who genuinely loved me and expressed it to me made it easy to refocus energy to myself and my work, my art, my personal development.
With a renewed focus, I started to do exceedingly well. I was winning in everything I tried, passed 3 professional exams and decided to try something new.
In March, I had filled an application form for a job that was supposed to be at best temporary. Something different, worth exploring.
I went through a test and series of interviews, surpassing myself in each one.
In May, I inadvertently dumped by stethoscope for uncharted territory. Something I didn’t know I could excel at but have come to love.
It was mostly a path that choose me. Something I would not have considered had I remained shackled.
I landed a job as a Health Analyst at a leading management consulting firm, working on a health program and gathering scores of knowledge. If anyone told me before now that I would be working in health development in 2017, I would have laughed and laughed at the impossible joke.
I love the sense of humor that God has because I always wanted to be a consultant before I turned 30. Here I am, working as a different kind of health consultant with a seat at the table and a voice among all the giants in public health.
What was supposed to be a temporary stint became a permanent job after 3 months, translated to a rare promotion 2 months after, with a role to lead an entire state, a salary that fixed my finances, benefits that laid my worries to rest and the opportunity to make an impact in health care. In the short while I have worked there, I have acquired skills and experience I didn’t know existed, had days when I thought I would simply die, doubted my own self so much, had a persistent ear infection, a wake-up panic attack, a list of milestones achieved and somehow carved a niche for myself in a place that cultivates the smartest people I have ever met.
A thing of dreams and joy and adding value and also exhaustion and sometimes frustration. But mostly, a nomadic life-changing experience with stacked-up air miles and hotel experiences to fill a journal.
“I have been sleeping on myself. I am awake now”
All of this time, I hadn’t realized I was carrying such a heavy load.
I didn’t know how much of myself I had buried and truncated and hibernated over the years just so I could be enough, less extra, more understandable. I had chipped away at myself and buried parts of me in the rubble of riotous emotions.
This year, I explored myself and dug deep.
I unlearnt shame. I cast all doubts aside. I listened to myself. I spoke up. I came into my own. This year, I woke up to myself and unfolded layers of me I had been too scared to explore, too self-conscious to accept.
One amazing thing that I learned was my ability to get shit done. It took a while and a brief period of impostor syndrome but with support from my new network of career women and a significant other that dreams my dreams and anticipates my needs before I do, I know I can very well have it all, if I so please.
I have arrived at a place where I no longer look at myself in the mirror and think “Look at XX’s girlfriend” or “There’s my mother’s daughter.”
Instead I see Raihanah, a flawed, beautiful, intelligent and amazing woman in continuous intentional progress who refuses to be boxed or labelled and is many things all at once. On some days, I am fire and other days an endless sea of water. And that is perfectly okay.
I took time out for myself and selectively screened out a lot of bad energy and just refused to taint my Zen with stressful situations. People were lost in the process and I celebrate that as well.
And with celebrations, came dancing.
I dance every time, almost every day now. I danced when my brother got married in September on the day that would have been my wedding day. Danced when my elder brother decided to move countries to practice his medicine because Nigeria is a joke. Danced every Friday after a hellish work week while I ate spicy noodles at Keje Grills. Danced at all the weddings I traveled to attend. Danced for no reason at all while cruising down the road on dark nights. Danced at Christmas on the streets. Danced as I sank my feet in the beach sand, my first time feeling those waves. Danced in my hotel rooms and in the shower and everywhere. Because dancing makes me happy and dancing is cardio and dancing is free!
I continue to unfold.
In 2018, I will be building on the person that I am, working on improving my health, fixing my spirituality and nurturing my support system, showing up for them as much as they did for me and expanding my network.
And if the year decides to bring me some lemons, I will be using them to unleash my glow and to do some more detox!
Light and Lightness!